Five Questions with Thornhill Medical CEO Lesley Gouldie

Lesley Gouldie is the President and CEO of Thornhill Medical a Canadian scale-up technology company and a CCI member.

Recently, Thornhill Medical stepped up to donate their technology to medical professionals in Ukraine. CCI President Benjamin Bergen chatted with Thornhill Medical CEO Lesley Gouldie about the story behind their work.

This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

Benjamin Bergen: Lesley, thank you for joining me. One of the things that’s really gripped the world over the past six or seven months has been the war in Ukraine. Obviously things are continuing to escalate. How did Thornhill Medical get involved in Ukraine, and the work you’re doing there?

Lesley Gouldie: We have a retired colonel, acting as a consultant for us; he is ex-US Army. And through him, we received a direct request from Ukraine for combat casualty care medical equipment and training support from both Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Health. So it was his past experiences with this kind of situation that brought us to the table fast.

BB: So tell me about the two technologies that you’ve deployed in Ukraine. One is sort of viewed as an ‘ICU in a box’ and the other has to do with anesthesia? How is that working in the field?

LG: One of the technologies is called MOVES SLC, which is the only micro integrated portable life support system that combines an oxygen concentrator, ventilation, suction, and complete vital signs monitoring in a single, compact, rugged, portable battery-operated system. That provides a lot of flexibility and solution-solving for people on the ground dealing with harsh environments because it’s capable of being used in so many different scenarios.

And then we also have another device, which is also small and portable. It’s called MADM, which stands for a mobile anesthesia delivery module. And it’s a technology that was also unique — it’s an inline direct injection, anesthetic vaporizer. So it’s a tiny little thing — it’s about the size of a two-slice toaster — compared to a traditional operating room anaesthesia machine, which is the size of a refrigerator. So this is consistent with that goal of making technology more compact, so it can be easily carried around basically in one hand, and it can be attached to the MOVES SLC for use in the field to quickly set up for sugeries or in transport.

So the great thing about that technology is that it can also be used with other ventilators as well. When you’re in chaotic circumstances, you really want to provide the frontline caregivers with as many options and as many solutions as possible, that present the least amount of obstacles to them to deliver life-saving care.

BB: That’s amazing. Thinking about this global emergency, and the technology that Thornhill Medical has deployed in Ukraine, what are the things that you have learned working in those types of conditions?

LG: You have to be ready for what is needed a year from now. You have to be nimble. you have to be flexible. You have to be able to think and act creatively and quickly.

You know, just getting our technology to Ukraine was a challenge unto itself. You would have thought that it would have been fairly straightforward, but it wasn’t. When the world is in chaos, you have to think very creatively, and you have to be prepared to, frankly, work around the clock, to get the technology to where it goes. One of the big learnings was to leverage our network of stakeholders — we had companies we’d partnered with in Europe offering to drive across the continent on a moments notice if we needed help with transporting equipment.. Our support in Ukraine to help save lives was an opportunity for the Thornhill team to take action and demonstrate their resilience and their ingenuity. We had to quickly translate all of our important education materials into Ukrainian; we had to figure out a training solution for users of the technology that was a combination of on-the-ground in-person and remote.

But also, it was very heartening to learn that we actually had a lot of the capabilities and solutions in place that we could execute on in a timely fashion. That was rewarding in many respects.

BB: I can only imagine the speed with which you were moving. You know, we originally met during the craziness of Covid — another crisis emergency that the globe has been facing. It feels like Thornhill Medical has now kind of had two of these back-to-back. What’s it like running a company that is being responsive to some of the most serious crises that we’re facing?

LG: You know, it’s exciting. It’s intimidating. It’s rewarding. And it’s slightly terrifying. It’s all those things. And I think as one can imagine, when you have such an unpredictable business, in terms of when you’re expected to deliver your technology, you just have to have a different kind of thinking, a different kind of go-to-market, and a different kind of people that are willing to engage when required. And then you’ve got to have all the business processes and practices sitting behind it.

We’ve learned a lot over the last two and a half years, so we’re much better prepared to address emergencies on an ongoing basis, but it is a very different way of doing business. And you have to have, I think, the intestinal fortitude to roll with the punches and be brave.

BB: It’s really interesting. How would you envision your technologies being used, you know, here in Canada and around the world in more of a day-to-day approach, maybe not at the forefront of a crisis?

LG: One of the benefits we’ve derived as a result of both the federal and a provincial government procuring our technology is that we’ve now got expanded mindshare of our capabilities within the Canadian market. So the Ontario government procured some of our technology. And we’ve been supporting them with training. And likewise, Manitoba secured the technology and there’s been interest from Newfoundland. And, the latest show of interest in our technology is from BC. Our team has been having conversations across Canada about integrating our technologies into the planning for the management of disasters and emergencies. And it could be anything. It doesn’t have to be disease-related. It could be fire, or flood, or whatever the universe decides to present us with. So that’s really great for us because it demonstrates our capabilities at home, and it helps build a footprint that we can take elsewhere in the world to demonstrate the usefulness of this technology for emergency management.

And then another strategic imperative is continuing to pursue the military market. Our technologies were originally designed for the US military. Our tech is extremely rugged, they meet a lot of the specifications for airworthiness, ruggedness and flexibility. So we are working with militaries around the world who are identifying a capability gap in prolonged field care, and our technology really does meet a well-defined need.

Our product is currently in evaluation in Australia. We were recently in Brussels, supporting the International Committee on Military Medicine. So really, going out conveying our capabilities to the militaries around the world, is going to be a thrust of the ongoing business plan as well.

BB: It’s wonderful that your technology exists and is able to help so many people. Thank you for spending some time talking about the work you do.

The Council of Canadian Innovators is a national business council of more than 150 scale-up technology companies headquartered in Canada. Our members are job-creators, philanthropists and leading commercialization experts in the 21st century digital economy.

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CCI is Canada’s 21st century business council, advocating for our country’s high-growth, innovative companies. Visit CanadianInnovators.org to learn more.